My Favorite Books of 2020…so far

Somehow the first quarter of 2020 has passed us by and I know a lot of us (myself included) are having a rough time, so I thought that today I would talk about a few of my favorite books of 2020 so far. I wholeheartedly recommend picking up each of these books and they are definitely in the running for my top books of the year!

First I have to mention Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith. This one took my completely by surprise but I LOVED it. It tackles so many issues that are relevant in the gaming and streaming community, as well as in society in general. The friendships and relationships that Smith crafted were wonderful and there were so many beautifully crafted scenes in this book. I can guarantee this is going to be on my top books of the year as I don’t see many books being able to top it.

Next let’s talk about Poems to See By. This one was really interesting as it was comics created to accompany classic poems. Each comic is a different style that goes along with the subject matter or tone of the poems. While I knew a lot of the poems included already, this would be a great way for someone to be introduced to the poems themselves. It gives a new avenue for people to be exposed classic poetry with beautiful imagery.

Another poetry collection that I have absolutely loved this year was the latest installment from Amanda Lovelace, Break Your Glass Slippers. I’ve read most of her poetry collections and enjoyed them all to different degrees, but Break Your Glass Slippers was by far the best in my opinion. It shares themes with her other works, but this one really spoke to me. It’s definitely going to take a lot for her to top this one in my opinion.

Finally let’s talk about the book that was easily my most anticipated book of the year, Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa. This was the conclusion to the Shadow of the Fox trilogy. I knew this one was likely going to wreck me and oh boy, it did. It was an amazing conclusion to the trilogy even though it destroyed me. If you’re looking for a trilogy that reads like an anime and is a thrilling adventure, definitely check these out.

Do any of these sound good to you? If so, I’ve made sure to link to the amazon pages for each one. Check them out and see if they are new favorites for you too.

Happy reading!

Blog Tour: Night of the Dragon

All is lost.

To save everyone she loves from imminent death, kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko gave up the final piece of the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. Now she and her ragtag band of companions must make one desperate final effort to stop the Master of Demons from using the scroll to call the Great Kami Dragon and make the wish that will plunge the empire into chaos.

Shadow clan assassin Kage Tatsumi has regained control of his body and agreed to a true deal with the devil—the demon inside him, Hakaimono. They will share his body and work with Yumeko to stop a madman, and to separate Hakaimono from Tatsumi and the cursed sword that trapped the demon for nearly a millennium.

But even with their combined skills and powers, this unlikely team of heroes knows the forces of evil may be impossible to overcome. And there is another player in the battle for the scroll, a player who has been watching, waiting for the right moment to pull strings that no one even realized existed…until now.

Buy Links: Amazon Barnes & Noble IndieBound Books-A-Million AppleBooks Google Play

Night of the Dragon was easily my most anticipated book of the year. I have been eagerly awaiting the conclusion to the Shadow of the Fox trilogy and HAD to know what happened to the characters. That being said, this book pretty much broke me. If Julie Kagawa has a tear quota she needs to meet, I’m pretty sure I provided what she needs.

That being said, Night of the Dragon was just as amazing as the other two books and was a fast paced, well formed conclusion. I don’t really feel like anything was left unresolved but it was certainly a difficult and emotional journey to get to the end. We follow the same characters as we have followed previously as they continue to try to defeat Genno in his quest to claim the Dragon’s Wish. There were so many twists and turns (some predictable and some out of left field) and Kagawa again succeeded in writing this book so that it reads like an anime. It is action packed and there’s never really a dull moment.

It was heartbreaking and amazing at the same time, if you have grown to love the world she has created in the first two books, be prepared to get emotional but to also love this conclusion to the trilogy.

Julie Kagawa, the New York Times bestselling author of the Iron Fey, Blood of Eden, Talon, and Shadow of the Fox series was born in Sacramento, California. But nothing exciting really happened to her there. So, at the age of nine she and her family moved to Hawaii, which she soon discovered was inhabited by large carnivorous insects, colonies of house geckos, and frequent hurricanes. She spent much of her time in the ocean, when she wasn’t getting chased out of it by reef sharks, jellyfish, and the odd eel.

When not swimming for her life, Julie immersed herself in books, often to the chagrin of her schoolteachers, who would find she hid novels behind her Math textbooks during class. Her love of reading led her to pen some very dark and gruesome stories, complete with colored illustrations, to shock her hapless teachers. The gory tales faded with time, but the passion for writing remained, long after she graduated and was supposed to get a real job.

To pay the rent, Julie worked in different bookstores over the years, but discovered the managers frowned upon her reading the books she was supposed to be shelving. So she turned to her other passion: training animals. She worked as a professional dogtrainer for several years, dodging Chihuahua bites and overly enthusiastic Labradors, until her first book sold and she stopped training to write full time.

Julie now lives in North Carolina with her husband, two obnoxious cats, and a pair of Australian Shepherds that have more Instagram followers than she does.

Social Links:
Author website: http://juliekagawa.com/
Facebook
Twitter: @jkagawa
Instagram: @juliekagawaauthor
Goodreads

Thank you so much to Inkyard Press for giving me the opportunity to finally read the conclusion and be included in the blog tour!

Happy reading!

Blog Tour: Don’t Read the Comments

Slay meets Eliza and Her Monsters in Eric Smith’s Don’t Read the Comments, an #ownvoices story in which two teen gamers find their virtual worlds—and blossoming romance—invaded by the real-world issues of trolling and doxing in the gaming community.

Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya—better known as popular streaming gamer D1V—regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent.

Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun—and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V.

At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line…And she isn’t going down without a fight.

Amazon Barnes & Noble Books-A-Million Kobo Indie Bound Google Play

I was super excited about this book when I heard about it. Being a gamer myself I’m very aware of the toxicity that can be found in the gaming community, especially when it comes to female players, so having a book that tackles this head on was such a joy to see.

I was not disappointed at all and can easily say that Don’t Read the Comments will likely appear in my favorite books of the year list. It not only discussed the gaming community and how celebrities in that community are treated, but also addressed other issues in the gaming community, different family dynamics and issues and so much more. The discussion regarding how Divya guards her identity and information out of fear of being pursued or doxxed is something that is seen in a number of industries, not just the gaming community.

I fell in love with so many of the characters, even when they perhaps weren’t acting the best. They were all moving cogs within the story that contributed greatly to the plot. There were also wonderfully inserted moments of humor that not only lightened the events, but perfectly added a realness to the story.

This was really such a wonderful read and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Eric Smith is an author, prolific book blogger, and literary agent from New Jersey, currently living in Philadelphia. Smith cohosts Book Riot’s newest podcast, HEY YA, with non-fiction YA author Kelly Jensen. He can regularly be found writing for Book Riot’s blog, as well as Barnes & Noble’s Teen Reads blog, Paste Magazine, and Publishing Crawl. Smith also has a growing Twitter platform of over 40,000 followers (@ericsmithrocks).

Social Links: 
Author website: https://www.ericsmithrocks.com/
Twitter: @ericsmithrocks 
Instagram: @ericsmithrocks
Facebook: @ericsmithwrites

Happy reading!

Flashback Friday: Books I Loved When I Was Younger

We all have those books that hold a dear place in our hearts. Books that looking back may not be perfect but that we can reread time and again because of how much we loved them in our youth. I’m going to take a walk down memory lane and talk about some of the ones I loved and still love.

Nancy Drew – I read a lot of Nancy Drew as a young teen. I was voracious in my devouring of books so my mom suggested I try them out, thinking they would last me a while. Yeah, I read all of the original stories, the extended originals and most of the files books. I’ve now collected all of the originals and all of the filed through 100. These books are a product of their time and aren’t perfect, but in a lot of ways they are also timeless. I can usually pick up one if I’m in a slump and fly through it.

L.J. Smith – I may be somewhat revealing my age, but I read pretty much all of L.J. Smith’s books when they came out. The Forbidden Game trilogy (my favorite), Vampire Diaries (the originals, not the ones that were added on later), Secret Circle, Dark Visions and Night World (do not even get me started on Strange Fate unless you want to hear a mega rant). I now have two sets of the original cover editions of the Forbidden Game trilogy, as well as two editions of all the Night World books, including first editions and the new beautiful re-released ones. No, they don’t necessarily hold up as well to modern standards, but they all have such a dear place in my heart.

Anne of Green Gables – I was gifted a box set of the entire Anne of Green Gables series as a child, another gift from my mom, because I loved the TV series that was made (starring Megan Follows). I didn’t get to them until I was a little older, but they are a huge chunk of my adolescence. I have thought about getting a new set of books since mine are very battered, but haven’t settled on what exactly I want yet.

So there we have it, a very narrowed down snippet of books that I loved and still love. What are some of your old favorites?

Happy reading!

Series Review: The Wicked + The Divine

They say all good things must come to an end, but I was both excited for the finale of this series and dreading it. This graphic novel series has by far been one of my favorites. It is definitely full of adult content and very graphic in nature, so keep that in mind if you are going to pick it up. From what I’ve noticed it is also quite polarizing, some people love it like I did, but some people don’t.

Now let’s get into it – The Wicked + The Divine tells the story of a group of twelve individuals who become Gods and then die two years later. This is a cycle that happens every 90 years and no one* knows why (ok, there’s someone who knows why, but they aren’t talking). During the time that they are Gods they are both loved and hated. They become the biggest celebrities there are, scrutinized by all and constantly watched.

This series was masterfully done, the pieces slowly coming together and peeling back layer after layer to discover the truth regarding how this started happening and what the reasons behind it truly was.

There were so many moments that caused extreme emotions because I became so invested in the different characters and their stories. The last volume alone made me cry multiple times.

If you love stories that are a twist on mythologies, examinations of humans and their motivations or just a fun time, definitely check out this series. The last volume recently came out, so it is complete and can be binged!

Happy reading!

Review: Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa

soul of the swordShadow of The Fox was pretty much my favorite book of 2018 (see my review of it here) I was VERY eagerly anticipating Soul of the Sword, so was over the moon when I got approved for an eARC.  This was easily my most anticipated book of the year.

First things first, Soul of the Sword pretty much picks up where Shadow of the Fox left off and has the same anime like feel. Many scenes felt like they were a transcript of an anime and it was amazing. In this way the book was very similar to Shadow of the Fox. While there are a few new characters thrown in, it is mostly the same cast of characters. The overall character development and building of relationships in this book were top notch and I’ll admit, makes me worry a bit about what is going to happen in the third book and how much Julie Kagawa is going to break my heart.

In this installment the POVs are Yumeko, Hakaimono/Tatsumi and Suki. Kagawa has a way of writing the different character arcs and their journeys that it is seamless when they all come together.  I love how if you read carefully there are little hints here and there regarding character’s motivations/intentions. She also made sure that more of the history of the dragon scroll and the wishes bestowed was revealed without it being too much of an info dump.

I absolutely loved how she wove in Japanese mythology and legends, she made the world and culture that she wrote feel absolutely real.  Sure there may have been some character traits or actions by characters that I didn’t love, but those things weren’t out of character for the people she had written.  Besides the slight slowness of the first half there wasn’t anything I actually disliked about the book.

I did feel that this story suffered a little from 2nd book syndrome and the first half was a bit slow, which is understandable considering all the set up that was happening but the rich settings, characters and characters more than make up for the slowness. This book had to be a bit of a bridge just so we can get to what I’m sure if going to be an amazing conclusion.  The last 20% was a thrilling journey where the action was non-stop and had me on the edge of my seat.

It will be very interesting to see where the final book goes as so many loose ends are going to need to be tied up. It’s definitely going to be a long wait until it’s available!

Soul of the Sword is out now! Make sure to pick up a copy of this book and its predecessor Shadow of the Fox if you’re interested in a thrilling adventure full of Japanese mythology.

Happy Reading!

Review: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

the gilded wolvesThis book is probably going to be in my top 5 books of the year, no joke. This book did take me a while to read, but I think a big part of that was the fact that I kept stopping simply so I could absorb what was happening.

The writing in this book is so rich and has so much depth. Chokshi’s description of the places and items were so well built that everything was vivid and could be seen in your mind’s eye. The Paris of 1889 that she built perfectly captured the glitz and opulence of the time, while also weaving in the fantastical elements she created.

I found myself falling in love with each character and their individual quirks. Every character was unique in their back story and motivation, so it was wonderful to see how their paths wove together and allowed them to work towards a common purpose. I won’t lie, there were quite a few tear filled moments as you see the consequences of actions unfolding, but I couldn’t stop reading and had to keep coming back to find out what happened.

I can’t wait for the sequel to this book to come out and waiting is probably going to drive me a little mad. While the story doesn’t necessarily end on a cliff hanger, there are definitely questions that still have to be answered and conflicts that have to be resolved. If I could give this book more than 5 stars I would, but alas, that’s the cutoff.

The Gilded Wolves is already out and is available, be sure to check it out!

Happy reading!

Review: the mermaid’s voice returns in this one by Amanda Lovelace

the mermaid's voiceI’ve read the previous installments in the Women Are Some Kind of Magic series and while I enjoyed them, they weren’t favorites. Lovelace was definitely one of my favored voices in modern poetry and I was willing to give anything she put out a chance. This installment in the trilogy blew me away.

One thing I love about Lovelace’s collections is that she always includes trigger warnings in the beginning. This is so appreciated and valuable when it comes to the type of content being discussed. Her language is beautiful while the emotions and subject matter are very raw and real. The way she phrases and formats her poems lend to the style and the expert use of language.

Perhaps it is my own experiences, but this collection just spoke to me. The progression of the story felt like a real progression of healing and learning. The guest poems from other poets perfectly melded into the collection. While they were different voices being added in, they fit in and belonged there. It was wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time.

I definitely recommend this collection for anyone who enjoys her writing or anyone looking for modern poetry that touches hard hitting and difficult subjects.  The mermaid’s voice returns in this one comes out on March 5th from Andrews McMeel Publishing.

Happy Reading!

Review: Pilu of the Woods by Mai Nguyen

Pilu of the woodsPilu of the Woods follows Willow, a little girl who obviously has been going through some emotional turmoil and at some point has had some trauma in her life. This story explores grief, loneliness anger and a number of other strong emotions that many people must learn to handle at a young age. Throughout her journey she meets Pilu and the girls bond while they learn how to handle their emotions and exactly what those emotions cause within them.

I was not prepared for the emotions I experienced while reading this. The emotions were so heartfelt and real with both little girls having to learn things about themselves and how they feel about different situations. I was prepared for this to be a sweet story, but it was so much more than that. At times what both Pilu and Willow were feeling were very raw, real emotions that are hard to deal with and accept, but they find a way. The girls have clear personalities that make them relatable to the reader and when they struggle the reader can certainly feel it.

I absolutely loved the art style of this story. Muted earth tones along with the style itself gave the story a beautiful, whimsical look. It was easy to follow and so easily draws one in with clear details. Everything from the characters to the backgrounds was well thought out and so enjoyable to experience.

Pilu of the Woods comes out on April 16, 2019 from Oni Press.  I definitely recommend pre-ordering or picking up this one when it comes out.  It was an absolutely enjoyable read and would be a great addition to any library.

Happy reading!

Author Spotlight: Ellie Alexander

Earlier this year while browsing Booktube I was introduced to the Bakeshop Mystery series by Ellie Alexander.  I was instantly intrigued as this series was set in Ashland, Oregon, which is a place near and dear to my heart.  I have many fond memories of Ashland and the Oregon Shakespeare festival throughout my life, going to the Shakespeare Festival was a tradition for my dad and I. Needless to say, I was both excited and cautious when I picked up the first book in the series, Meet Your Baker.

meet your baker

This series centers around Juliet, who has recently returned home to Ashland, Oregon to help her mother at their bake shop, Torte.  Obviously murder and mayhem ensues and soon Jules is knee deep in the mystery.

I was pleasantly surprised by how vividly Ellie Alexander painted Ashland and how accurate the descriptions of this section of the city were.  After reading this first book I was completely hooked.  Her writing is descriptive and rich, with humor and playfulness woven in. While reading this book I was completely immersed, not just because of the story but because of how perfectly she painted the atmosphere of Ashland itself. It’s one of my favorite places so I readily admit I’m biased, but that may have also made me a harsher critic if it wasn’t as perfect as it is.

I immediately started collecting the next couple books in the series but as of yet hadn’t had a chance to continue (the TBR struggle is real). I added not only the books from the Bakeshop series to my wish list, but also her other series both under Ellie Alexander, but her other name Kate Dyer-Seeley.

This past week I got an email from my favorite local bookstore, Oregon Books, notifying me of an author event they were having. Imagine my surprise (and delight) when it was Ellie Alexander.  My internal fangirl did a little dance and I immediately put it on my calendar. I didn’t know what to expect, but was just excited that I would get to meet a local author whose work I truly enjoy.  The event was amazing, the intimate setting allowed us to have a great discussion about her different series, how they came to be, her writing process and more. If I didn’t already want to read everything she had written, this would have definitely made me want to. It was obvious that she puts some of herself into each story she writes and that serves to make her work more inviting and full of depth.  Listening to her talk about the places she writes about (all of which she has visited) made me want to visit them all, even those I’ve been to many times throughout my life. I was able to get books from a couple of her other series which I can’t wait to pick up.

I would have recommended her books before meeting her, but after meeting her and getting to spend time with her I want to recommend her even more.  If you are looking for a new cozy mystery, definitely check her out.  If a bakeshop/food centered mystery isn’t your thing, she has three other series available that focus on other themes.  There’s the Pacific Northwest Mysteries (her first series) which center around Meg, who wants to be a serious investigative reporter but ends up working for an outdoor magazine – even though she doesn’t know much about outdoor activities. Her Rose City mystery series centers around a floral shop in Portland, Oregon where our main character Britta works with her aunt Elin.  Last (but definitely not least) is the Sloan Krause Mystery series, set in Leavenworth, Washington with a theme of brewing craft beers.
scene of the climbnatural thorn killerdeath on tap

(All cover images link to the Amazon pages for the books)

Be sure to also check out Ellie on her website and her new youtube channel.

Happy Reading!